The WhatsApp Mania during Corona Pandemic By Bigyani Das

WhatsApp was a great discovery that made communication easier, cost effective and global. Those of us that had gone through the experience of paying heavy bill for international calls during nineties now treasure the WhatsApp calls which one can make completely free. The person can be in any place in the globe and one can communicate with WhatsApp calls, audio calls and video calls, see the face, show the face, and have wonderful experience.

After corona virus started affecting people of the Globe, WhatsApp became more important in everyday life, at least to people of Indian origin. I say this since most of my American colleagues do not know about WhatsApp.

Groups after groups were created to stay in touch and inform friends, families, community members about the situation. It was important in the beginning to let the loved ones know how to stay alert, how to take precautions and how to stay safe. Then slowly it became an obsession for many. People started forwarding videos, pictures, documents, and literature. The simple phone that was available to make calls and talk to people, became a medium for everything. People slowly forgot to check email messages but were alerted by the WhatsApp message.

My life slowly started becoming complicated with WhatsApp interface. My dance group had its own WhatsApp group. Several enthusiastic members of my dance group started forwarding dance videos. During March and April of 2020, several videos of how to wash your hands, how to make a mask from a sock and other fabrics, how to make Kaadhaa and drink, how to have yoga and pranayama to build the immunity etc., all were forwarded, reforwarded and were moving in circles. There were many types of dance challenges, make-up brush dance challenge, saree dance challenge, diya dance challenge and so many. My phone started showing storage related messages.

My immediate family, extended family, family from husband’s side, family from my side, all had their own WhatsApp groups. I also had several music related WhatsApp groups, literature related WhatsApp groups, drama related WhatsApp groups and religious practice related WhatsApp groups.

One person forwards a video, ten people comment on, another ten people start forwarding related pictures and stories. In the literature WhatsApp group, one person sends a write-up and twenty people just send appreciation message. In drama group people forward drama, interesting comic acts and stories. In music groups, people send interesting music, music videos and so on.

Even during this corona period, fortunately I have a fulltime job which requires me to devote at least 40 hours per week for my work. Expecting that one can do work from home, sometimes extra workload also comes for me. I cannot become able to check the messages which can be more than 100 per day if accumulated from various sources. And my iphone shows “Storage Full”.

My family groups send pictures of life in India, videos of new cooking discoveries, children singing, dancing, gardening, playing, pictures of rain, flood, mangoes, sunrise and sunset. They accumulate. The religious groups send pictures of deities, temples, holy thoughts and discourses, videos of bhajans, puja, rituals and they accumulate.

My dance groups send videos and pictures of beautiful dances, great performances, their own choreography, their children’s performances, mothers’ day message, happy Ganesh Puja message, good morning message and good evening message. They accumulate.

I do enjoy music, dances, literature and bhajans. However, when something becomes too much, it creates the opposite effect. Like, “ati sarbatra gahirtam”, Excess of anything is bad. All those things like music, dance, bhajans, poems, stories all are so good. However, if consumed without maintaining balance, they would bring trouble. I love to eat sweets, such as rasagola and chhenna-jhilli. That does not mean I should consume them constantly without a guard.

Most of us are attracted to Good and that is why irrespective of our discomfort, still try to consume. But the rules of the universe try to maintain balance. Too much of information everywhere becomes a distraction and prevents people from knowing what is important. There are some people who have developed “WhatsApp mania” symptoms and send videos of obvious things being so obsessive. Sometimes, I feel that I should tell these people with “WhatsApp mania” to stop, control and may be send one or two messages to a group in weekly basis, “If I want to listen to Bhikari Bal’s bhajan, I can do a Google search and listen. Who tells you to forward that video to me and others and then adding to our workload of doing the deleting task?’’

However, I cannot say thinking that somebody may feel bad. They have created their groups and let them do and manage the way they want to manage. Who am I to say this to them? My children suggest, “Why do not you get out of those groups?’’

I started thinking of getting out of those groups. I have not done yet for three reasons. First, those are the areas, the subjects that I like to get information about, however, just the essential information. Second, I want to stay in touch with the people in the group since I do share the specific common interest with them. The third reason is that, at times a few of the information shared in these groups are valuable. For example, the mask making video from sock was very valuable during March, April 2020 when masks were not available in the market.

I would think of an ideal situation when people would think of other people being empathetic. They would ask questions, “Why am I forwarding this video to this group? Who will be benefitting from my forward? Can I keep this in my Facebook, or Google Drive or any personal web site or blog site and just share the links? Can I only send one message per week, one write-up per week, only one picture per week or one video per week?’’

While appreciating somebody in any WhatsApp group, one can always send a personal appreciation to the specific people for something great they did. Instead think of in a group of more than fifty people sending appreciation constantly, “Thank you”, “Thank you”, “Thank you” and twenty and thirty of those. This harms the contributor since people become so much distracted with appreciation messages, they do not have patience to experience the value of the specific posting.

I have kept myself away from Facebook even though I understand sometimes people get a lot of information about others from Facebook presence. Currently I am thinking of staying away from WhatsApp as it distracts me. Before the covid-19 pandemic’s appearance certain things were under control. Now everything is uncontrolled. Everybody is thinking of becoming a star and just wants to be there, creates YouTube videos, posts YouTube videos, forwards links, messages, thank you notes, comments and so on. This is information overload.

I imagine a day when there will be an academic course offering about “WhatsApp 101” to let the students learn about effective WhatsApp usage, getting out of WhatsApp mania, managing WhatsApp groups and messages and so on so that some of us will be able to use our cell phones effectively and manage our distractions.

I did learn how to use WhatsApp desktop. Still unless people in the WhatsApp groups try to control their WhatsApp mania disorder, its effectiveness will stay limited.

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